Starting a new job is always a nerve racking experience, but when the transition involves leaving the safety and comfort of a computer screen, for the cold sharky waters of the south west, less than a week after a fatal attack in the area, I had a lot on my mind.
With a farewell to my lovely wife I took off on an adventure to find a new direction, combining my passion for the underwater world with a career in Abalone diving. Three years of office jobs left my body soft and I was feeling the call to escape the mundane and venture out into the blue water. My ever supportive wife had also had enough of the city and knowing that my heart is in the ocean she supported the move.
Safety in the water is always relative to the people around you. Working in and around the ocean can attract a lot of unsavoury characters, often using the ocean to escape. Escape from their past, escape from responsibilities and escape from reality. Happening to make contact with an experienced, safety conscience and intelligent Abalone diver that was willing to take me on, was an omen and an undeniable call to get in the water. Opportunities like that are few an far between, so I made the call to take the jump and try my hand at an increasingly dangerous but rewarding career.
The first day is always a nervous one. Even after many years of diving, having to prove yourself in the water and find your rhythm isn’t always easy. A new 7mm suit meant I was bobbing around like a cork without enough lead, I needed to be heavier to get down and stay around the bottom. With a borrowed belt I took that first dive down to the ocean floor with the hookah hose trailing behind me to the surface, my life support system underwater to keep me breathing for the next hour.
For a brief moment I was distracted and the thought of sharks crept in, but then the task at hand took over and I was off in pursuit of my instructor. We glided over the sandy weedy bottom in search of our targets, the green lip Abalone. Once we struck a patch there were bound to be a few nice ones in the area, a small congregation about to be spoilt by the Abalone Iron, prising them from the rocks sometimes the easy way, other times the hard way with brute force needed to release the prize.
Back on deck, there was shucking to do. Prepping the abalone so they look good even after their long voyage to a plate in China. With a cargo this valuable, it gets well taken care of.
After a good first day we headed in and pulled the boat onto the trailer. Day one behind me with a lot to learn and a couple a good teachers to guide me.
The winds were turning out of favour and a huge swell was on the way so tomorrow would be a down day…